Milestones

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LORI REESEDIED. JOAO CARLOS DE OLIVEIRA,45, Brazilian athlete who set a world record in the triple-jump at the '75 Pan-American Games; in a São Paulo, Brazil hospital, following lung and liver complications. Oliveira, who won Olympic bronze medals in 1976 and '80, held onto the record until 1985. Four years before that, however, his career ended abruptly when he lost his right leg in a car accident.DIED. OLIVIER DEBRE,79, abstract painter whose lyrical brushwork and bold splashes of color made him one of the most admired French artists of the postwar era; in Paris. Debre began his career during World War II as a member of Picasso's entourage but later broke with the analytic cubist tradition. For me, he once said, painting and emotion are inseparable.AWARDED.ToGÜNTER GRASS,71, German fabulist whose wry, provocative novels have won worldwide acclaim, the prestigious $33,000 Príncipe de Asturias literary prize; in Oviedo, Spain. Grass, best known for his surreal rendering of Nazi Germany in The Tin Drum, is the first non-Spanish writer the jury has honored.AILING. HSING HSING,28, beloved giant panda given by the Chinese government to the National Zoo; in Washington, D.C. Hsing Hsing, who suffers from an incurable kidney disease, arrived in the U.S. in 1973 with his mate Ling Ling. Their efforts to breed intrigued countless visitors. Ling Ling, who died in 1992, frequently rebuffed Hsing Hsing's advances, and while the pair eventually produced five cubs, none lived longer than four days.APPROVED. THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL,after a controversial nine-year deliberation by Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare; in Tokyo. The delay angered many of the nation's women's groups, particularly when Viagra, an impotency remedy primarily for men, went on sale earlier this year just six months after being submitted for approval. Before giving their O.K. to the pill, officials argued it carried negative side-effects and would destroy the nation's morals.ELECTED. MORTEZA ALVIRI,51, ally of Iran's reform-minded President Mohammed Khatami, as mayor of the nation's capital; in Tehran. Alviri, who is currently chairman of the Supreme Council for Free Trade, was unanimously approved by the city's 16-member Municipal Council, ending weeks of bickering over the powerful post among factions jockeying for influence ahead of next year's parliamentary elections. Alviri will replace Gholamhossein Karbaschi, who was sentenced last month to two years' imprisonment for corruption.RELEASED. NAJAM SETHI,43, editor of popular Pakistan weekly The Friday Times, after three weeks' detention; in Islamabad. Sethi, whose arrest triggered widespread international condemnation, was detained in early May and charged with anti-state activities in connection with a speech he made in India that criticized Pakistan's government. Officials claimed they had hoped to teach Sethi a lesson. The sharp-tongued editor said their efforts would have the opposite effect. He is currently out on bail.Star Wars vs. Star WarsThe rises and falls of the Star Wars movie franchise and the U.S. defense system known by the same name are eerily concurrent. Is it coincidence, or is it the Force?

1977-83 Star Wars trilogy premieres
1983 Reagan calls Soviet Union the evil empire; announces Star Wars strategic defense initiative (SDI)

1987 Mel Brooks comedy Spaceballs parodies the Force
1988 During final year in office, Reagan says Soviet Union is no longer to be considered the evil empire

1993 Jurassic Park strikes down Star Wars record for box-office gross
1993 New York Times reports SDI premise more science fiction than science fact

1999 Phantom Menace released
1999 Clinton urges Star Wars Lite missile-defense system; Congress approves

2003 Second prequel scheduled for release
2005 Proposed missile system scheduled for completion